Monday, January 16, 2012


I didn't start learning to play an instrument until I was fourteen.  My mother hated noise.  She wanted me to play the quietest of the instruments my school had on offer: a flute. I never really liked it.  I wanted to play piano, or saxophone.  Nonetheless, I still have my flute, and the music I learned in my teens still, as if by magic, resides in my fingers despite my brain's inability to read sheet music any longer.

In November, Clara saw a busker on Vancouver's Granville Island.  He was a spirited fiddler, good-natured, and even energized by the enthusiasm with which Clara and Winton danced to his playing.  Since then, Clara has wanted to play violin.

I'd ask every few weeks to see if she had changed her mind (mildly trying to dissuade her: I presumed on the basis of recordings of orchestral music that I liked violins even less than I like my flute).  She has remained steadfast.

Today we went to Perrin and Associates Fine Violins, an outfit 4 floors up in an unrestored 1927 building on Lexington Avenue, in Baltimore (in other words, resplendently deco, with an original elevator).  The walls are hung with gorgeous wood-bellied instruments from cello to teeny violins for rental to young beginners like Clara. 

She was fitted for a tiny violin, a tiny bow, a tiny case, and a puck of sticky amber rosen.  The strings even as she toyed with them had a surprising depth of sound.  The cello being test-driven in the next room sounded like a tree singing.  It was like being in the clubhouse of a cult I'd never heard of before: the stringed and bowed instrument club.

Clara was excited, but for Me (selfish, selfish), it was magical, and all the more so for being an experience I would never have had were it not for the stubborn and highly individualized tastes of my oldest child.

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